Gabriel’s quarters were directly opposite Sebastian’s so he took a deep breath, shook off the alcohol fog, and crossed the park to find his bed. Two of the Mahjongg players from the train saw him and immediately stood to attention. The elevator door opened behind them and Drax knew what they were up to. The mystery of Pine Gap was legend amongst the Terran armed forces and the new recruits were going on an adventure. He would make changes tomorrow when his authority as the Head of Security was made official. Tonight they were someone else’s problem.
The Colonel’s security card had been coded to allow him access to his domicile with a simple wave in front of the scanner sensor in the door jamb. Upon entry every light was automatically switched on and Drax could see that his residence, with the exception of a few personal additions, was exactly the same as Botha’s. The carpet on the lounge room floor was woven out of a soft down-like substance that molded with the individuals foot shape to provide comfort and support, whilst gently massaging the soles to relieve stress. Gabriel kicked off his boots and sighed at his toes were swathed in velvety bliss. As he entered the kitchen the surface became more solid with mildly heated tiles that were no less pleasurable to walk on in spite of their rigidity. Feeling thirsty, and still a little giddy from the bourbon, Drax poured himself a glass of ice water from a jug in the refrigerator. He drank some of the half frozen liquid, bent his head into the sink, and tipped the rest of it over the back of his neck. Gabriel stood there for a moment watching the water drip from his nose and splash onto the shiny metal surface of the drain and then decided that a hot bath would help him sleep. He ascended the stairs to the second level and noticed that the entire story was covered in polished floorboards which, like the kitchen tiles, were also kept at a comfortable temperature. Three bedrooms and a bathroom didn’t hold much interest for him so he continued upwards towards the waiting spa. The master bedroom was carpeted in the same substance as the ground floor living area with a massive bed situated against the far wall. An imposing walk-in wardrobe with floor to ceiling mirrors stood opposite the bed and Drax could see that his uniforms had been neatly pressed and were hanging at attention. On the left hand side of the bed was the large double doors that opened onto the balcony at the front of the terrace and to the right was the en suite, which is where Drax headed. It took ten minutes to fill the spa to the desired level and the Colonel was left standing impatiently naked waiting for it to be ready.
The jets of hot water eventually began to massage his spine and Gabriel closed his eyes to enjoy the sensation. Suddenly the serenity was broken by an unnatural sound on the stairs. Drax thought he may be hearing things but switched off the spa to be sure. His ears strained against the silence for what seemed an eternity then, just as he was about to give up and get back to the bath, he heard it again. A scraping sound similar to a bag being dragged along a wooden floor, followed by the thump of a heavy footstep. Gabriel stepped quietly out of the tub and wrapped a towel around his waist. He grabbed his laser pistol from the bed and headed to the top of the stairwell. Although he hadn’t shut off the lights the two floors below him were pitch black and the noise was getting closer.
The Colonel bellowed into the darkness and the noise stopped momentarily before quickening its pace. The soggy officer reached for the control panel to switch the lights back on but nothing he did would illuminate the stairway, so he positioned himself in a crouch and waited for the intruder to access the final landing.
The noise was becoming progressively louder as it drew closer to him and Drax could feel his heart pounding faster than ever before.
He had fought his way out of many tough situations but something here didn’t feel right, and his palms began to sweat.
He was talking to himself.
And then he saw it! A rotten, fetid corpse staggered around the corner and looked up at him with one ice blue eye. Maggots were still gnawing on the other eyeball whilst chunks of putrid skin and hair were hanging off the carcass forming morbid festoons of pus and gore. Drax retched on the stench of decay and fired his pistol at the approaching menace. The laser bolt went right through the creature’s chest cavity and impacted with the wall behind it splattering bone and coagulated blood. The – thing – swayed slightly on the step and the frightened man could see large black cockroaches crawling amongst the decomposing organs. He prepared to fire his pistol again but stopped when the creature held out a half empty bottle of brown spirits and began to speak.
“I thought you might want to finish the bourbon with me.”
Gabriel stared in utter disbelief as the suppurating cadaver of Sebastian Botha gurgled its horrible invitation, then fired his pistol once again. This time the laser bolt hit the liquor bottle and the alcohol burst into flames, setting his friend alight in a blaze of blue fire and black smoke. The cremation lasted only a few seconds and the Captain was reduced to a pile of charred bones and greasy ash.
Drax vomited onto the carpet then staggered back into the master bedroom. He placed his pistol on the bed and, with his body quivering from the early onset of shock, allowed the towel to drop to the floor.
All too late he heard the second corpse and was seized from behind by a grip that belied human physical strength. The monster wheezed through its disintegrating nasal passage.
“I’ve been waiting for you. Its time to have your bath”.
Before he knew it Drax was being dragged by his neck into the en suite and he saw, with a dread realisation, that he was about to be drowned in his own spa. He fought back with all the strength he could muster but was no match for the super human abilities of his captor. His head hit the tap as it was forced into the water, which prevented him from taking a deep enough breath. He opened his eyes and watched the blood from the cut on his forehead blend with the bath water and disperse. His hands were still free so he planted them firmly on the floor of the spa and pushed up with all his might until his head broke the surface and he was able to gulp down some life saving oxygen. Then he was drowning again and the force holding him down was not about to let him fill his lungs for a second time. Finally the terror of his experience and the hopelessness of his situation registered and he panicked. His arms thrashed around in the water clawing at the creature holding him under. Pieces of graying skin and muscle came away in his hands as his fingers scraped against the arm bones of his assailant. The water turned a muddy brown colour as it became diluted with the filth of the decaying carrion he was tearing apart. Finally, as he was on the verge of passing out it spoke to him again.
“What’s the matter? Don’t you like to be clean?”
Pine Gap © Matthew Green 2004